Chapter XVII

The Resumption Of Conflict


In accordance with Jevdet's threats, we anticipated fighting to be resumed at 6:00 A.M., May 6th, and on a more ferocious scale than ever before.

The people were advised of this and were instructed not to go out into the streets but, as before, live in the safety and comfort of the shelters. They were also instructed not to make a fire during the day, and do all the cooking and baking at night. It had been noticed that mortars aimed their shots at buildings with smoking chimneys.

At 7:00 A.M. the cannons on top of the rock announced that the battle was on again.

In the meantime, valuable information was gleaned from sailors from Avantz who had been held under surveillance at the cavalry barracks. One of them told the following story: “Yesterday there was general talk at the barracks that the city was ready to capitulate; friendly policemen told us, joyfully, that they had already vowed submission, that they would be going in very soon.

“Early in the morning, May 6th, Burhaneddin Bey, commandant of the gendarmy, Polat Bey and Ahmed Bey visited the barracks. A large number of regulars, militia, Kurds and Cherkaz gathered in the courtyard. Each group fell into military formation headed by an officer. A tall table was placed at the center of the yard. We could not make anything of all this, since we watched them, very cautiously, from the window of the basement room where we were being restricted. Suddenly, all stood at attention presenting arms. Burhaneddin Bey climbed on the table and in a loud voice harangued them as follows: “My soldier sons, Jevdet Bey, our Governor, invited the Armenians in the city to surrender. They deceived us, first promising to do so, and now refusing to lay down their arms. By order of the governor, the attacks on the city will be resumed. Those who have risen against the Sultan and the Fatherland shall be punished severely. Every one of these traitors over five years of age shall be destroyed unmercifully. Now it is up to you, my lion cubs, to disdain death and completely destroy them before the day is over. Do not spare either women or children; all have to be massacred. The artillery on top of the rock will soon be pouring shell and shrapnel over the enemies of Islam; mortars will be kept busy and you, my intrepid ones, I want you to subdue the rebels. Those blackguards have taken enough of our time.”

“Then a mullah (Moselm priest) offered a prayer in low voice which we could not hear. Quickly the barracks and the courtyard were deserted; all left in a frenzy of religious and racial hatred.

“The roar of the cannons, the deafening burst of bullets left no doubt that attacks had been resumed. We thought this was going to be the last day for the city, as we could not find a single ray of hope. Soon we were ordered into the court and, were loaded, like pack animals, with heavy burdens to be carried to the Azizie barracks. We made it with great difficulty as we were very weak. Here we noticed several fresh corpses and wounded men, with new ones being brought in. They pushed us down into an underground room which was dark and damp but we kept on watching through the cracks in the door and the narrow window.

“Soon after mid-day the number of soldiers in the courtyard increased. More corpses were being brought in. One of them was draped in a flag; he must have been an important person. Everyone seemed downhearted and talked in a whisper. The corpse wrapped in the flag was buried in the courtyard, under a tree. Night fell, and we surmised the Turks must have suffered numerous casualties, failing to break the resistance.”

The attacks that started at 7:00 A.M. continued with unparalleled violence until the early mid-afternoon, after which it subsided appreciably. In addition to the cannons atop the rock, one field piece, placed at Haigavank, fired shrapnel type shells; another cannon placed at the mosque of Yeni-Kapoo was kept busy and a mortar anchored at the Kiamil ruins, across form our Unuz defense, was lobbing explosive shells.

At Unuz, our defenders killed the two gunners and silenced the artillery fire. The Turks had knocked out a hole in the wall of Yeni-Kapoo mosque and were bombing us with murderous shrapnel shells. They had to enlarge the hole for better maneuvering of the gun. This brought the two gunners within the line of sight of our sharp shooters who killed them as they were cleaning the barrel. The cannon was immediately wheeled out of sight. Polad Bey, the perfidious assassin of Ishkhan, was leading the attack, mounted on horseback, against our defenses at the military procurement building. Our avenging bullet found its mark and Polat Bey was dead. 415 shells were fired that day. The enemy suffered numerous casualties, without compensating results. Our losses consisted of one killed in action, Manoog Bailian, and one seriously wounded. A ricocheting shell struck Markar Sarkisian in the head, causing lasting amnesia.

Equal ferocity in attacks was maintained during May 7th and 8th. Often the bombardment was continued into the night; mortars were especially active. Every Armenian home in the city was hit. The minaret at Topji mosque, which we were using as a lookout point, was demolished; the churches of St. Nishan and St. Paul, were badly damaged, as well as the Jesuit-Shooshanian co-educational school, and the west wall of the Prelacy building. The Ottoman coat of arms adorning the wall of the reception hall at the Prelacy was shattered by bombs. From here on to the end, this period may be characterized as the period of destructive action. For one viewing from the top of the rock, the old city would seem to be in ruins and deserted. Everywhere in the streets were pieces of shrapnel, heaps of empty shells, a heavy blanket of smoke, and the acrid odor of putrefying corpses.